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Art of Ajanta




Returning to Kapilavastu, Buddha receives alms from his wife & son,his first encounter with his family after renunciation (click on pic. to see larger image)


Buddha sitting on lotus thorn with 2 attendants.Detail of nunal,cave 2, Ajanta. End 6th century AD. Endlessly repeated motif on a wall,essence of Buddha pervades. (click on pic. to see larger image)


Two painted 'mithuna' (couples) panels on the lintel of entrance to cave 17,Ajanta. Vakataka 5-6th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)


King Mahajanaka listening to queen Sivali (Mahgianak Jataka) Cave1 , Ajanta.Vakataka 5-6th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)


Scene in harem.Vakataka 5-6th century AD.(click on pic. to see larger image)

In A.D 1817, some tiger hunting British soldiers chanced upon a collection of caves in a horseshoe shaped ravine close to Aurangabad lying abandoned. This was when the art of Ajanta was exposed to the enthralled world. Started in the second century B.C. and given up some time in the seventh centruy A.D. this complex of 29 chaitya and vihara caves were chiselled into live rock and are host to some of the best preserved paintings and sculptures of the Gupta period. Most of these masterpieces appear to have been a part of a continuous narrative done within a narrow band along the walls of the caves. However the later paintings covered up the entire surface area of the walls, though still forming a part of a narrative. The subject matter was mostly the Jataka tales telling about the various lives and the incarnations of the Buddha. The vihara caves in this Buddhist museum of sorts, were used not only to house the monks but also as a place of worship with a cell in the back containing an image of the Buddha. The special technique used by the painters gives a most remarkable feature to these paintings viz. their quality of glowing even in the poorly lit caves. Unfinished and damaged paintings show that the stone walls were first coated with a mixture of potter's clay, cow-dung, animal hair etc. to a thickness of half to two inches. This raised surface was then smoothly plastered with fine white lime which was treated like a painting surface. After first outlining the composition, the painter would then define the subjects with an undercoat of grey. After covering the whole surface as a finished painting with natural water soluble colors the painter would again give a last burnishing with a smooth stone to add that magnificent lusture characteristic to these paintings. In addition to the walls, the ceiling of Cave 1 was also decorated with multiple panels of paintings depicting hundreds of animals. Cave 17 houses some paintings dated to the fifth century depicting a theme which was to be popular with all Indian paintings right up to the 19th century Rajput miniatures: Two lovers in an architectural backdrop. Cave19 is popular for its fine chaitya facade asserting the dominance of Mahayana Buddhism with an abundance of Buddha images as compared to the earlier chambers attributed to the Shunga dynasty.





Buddha explaining law to Yasa in white,the first lay member of the Buddhist country.Detail of a large painting. in cave 10 at Ajanta.End of 5th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)


Samanathpur Temple,One of the gems of miniature work. Mysore.12th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)



King listening to dharma  exposition by the golden goose (Hansa Jataka) Cave2 Ajanta. Vakataka 5-6th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)


Close up of a nymph playing the cymbals."Munal,Verandah of cave 17, Ajanta.Vakataka 5-6th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)



The picture of Facade & courtyard of cave 19 at Ajanta.Vakataka,5th-6th century AD. (click on pic. to see larger image)




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Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000